Whether you want to shake a leg at clubs or simply unwind on a rooftop bar, partying in Istanbul is serious business! There are innumerable pubs to choose from in both the Asian(Anatolia) and European (Thrace) neighbourhoods of the city. United by the waters of the Bosphorus strait, these two continental sides offer an interesting and varied twist to Istanbul’s nightlife. 

Read on as Ithaka brings to you the best guide to drink and bust some moves in Istanbul.

5 bars in European Istanbul

With a mix of luxury lounges and hip clubs and bars, this side of the city is the place to be! While there are bars on every street you turn, the ones near Taksim Square are the best and specifically the ones in  Beyoglu, Arnavutkoy, and Cihangir.

1. Babylon, Bomonti

Price Range: Mid

If it takes nothing short of live-music-concerts to move you, Babylon will sure be your happy place! Local artists often jam at this old brewery over weekdays, while weekends are reserved for the elite musicians (read: Diplo or Lykke Li). Aside from heart-pumping electronic music, you can look forward to swaying to jazz, reggae or even Turkish tunes. 

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Timings: 6 p.m. onwards in case of an event and 11 p.m to 5 p.m. otherwise. Closed on Sunday and Monday.

2. Litera, Beyoğlu

Price Range: Mid to High

Love the idea of sipping on some beer while admiring the gleaming waterway of Bosphorus? Well, that’s what Litera offers! This is a restaurant by day that transforms into a lounge cum club by night with huge glass walls that look out towards the Bosphorus. Enjoy a night out with the mood set by the DJ’s rhythm or sway to live jazz music!

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Timings: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

3. Alexandra, Arnavutköy

Price Range: Mid to High

A bar in the nooks of Arnavutköy, Alexandra gives a classic twist to cocktails that will have you wanting more! Candle-lit tables and dark wood decor, along with a rooftop terrace view of the Bosphorus makes this place perfect for romantic dates. Look out for Japanese music or mix house tunes.

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Timings: Monday to Friday – 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. On weekends the bar remains open till 3 a.m.

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: Knock twice on the counter to order Alexandra’s infamous drink, Knock-knock or request the bartender to get you a surprise concoction!

4. Urban, Beyoğlu

Price Range: Low to Mid

A cozy bar-cum-cafe hidden in Istanbul’s noisy streets, Urban speaks to hipsters who love a mix of great music and beer. The funky graffiti, dim-lit atmosphere, and European vibes give you a reason to nest here for the season.

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Timings: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.

5. MiniMüzikhol, Beyoğlu

Price Range: Mid

One of the best places to experience the thrill of electronic music, MiniMüzikhol hosts international DJs and regional artists alike to keep folks grooving on the dance floor. Amid the music and fog, MiniMüzikhol promises you a beautiful state between being sober and high. 

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Timings: Open on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: It’s best to drop in here after 1 a.m. to enjoy the grunge and hipster vibe.

5 bars in Asian Istanbul

While the bars on the European shore of the Bosphorus are quite popular, the Asian side of Istanbul is the real deal. Nightlife here is quite concentrated in the Kadikoy area with locals and expats hanging around its best nighttime haunts.

1. Arkaoda, Kadıköy

Price Range: Mid

Right in the middle of Kadikoy’s hippest bar streets, sits Arkaoda – a bar that’s as indie as it gets! From underground DJ bashes to theme parties, this cafe by day and bar by night has quite an eclectic palette that caters to all tastes. 

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Timings: 12 p.m. to 2 a.m., the closing hour extends to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: The backyard here is definitely worth visiting. Soak in the ambience or simply groove over some great experimental and dance music.

2. Karga, Kadıköy

Price Range: Low to Mid

A five storey Ottoman mansion, Karga has hints of a vintage vibe.  Grab a beer and go exploring all its floors set with brick walls, cozy corners, and vintage decor. An art cafe and bar rolled into one, the mansion also has a concert stage. Expect a wide range of music from rock favourites to Belgian pop!

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Timings: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., the closing hour extends to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: Since this bar has no name board, identifying it can get a tad difficult. Look for the green building with an iron crow in front.

3. Zeplin Pub and Delicatessen Cadde, Kadıköy

Price Range: Mid

Zeplin offers you a European vibe right in the middle of Anatolia (Asian side of Istanbul) Great live music, classic pub grub, and fantastic beer choices make this a prime location. Don’t be surprised when you see a bunch of folks hanging right by the entrance on weekends – alternatively, you could join in and do the same. 

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Timings: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., the closing hour extends to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: Do try the mac ‘n’ cheese and shepherd’s pie here.

4. Viktor Levi Şarap Evi, Kadıköy

Price Range: Mid to High

In the mood for something fancy? A romantic dinner in an ancient wine house is the way to go. Viktor Levi Sarap Evi is an Ottoman mansion with beautiful wooden tones that set the mood and help you appreciate the wine here even more. Along with a full bar menu, you can opt for exquisite wines from their cellar. 

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Timings: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: We recommend tasting the red, white, and rosé wines.

5. Ayi, Kadıköy

Price Range: Mid to High

Ayi is perfect if you are simply looking for a pub to chill with friends with music that blends in the background. We recommend the imported beers, local craft brews, and cocktails here.

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Timings: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., the closing hour extends to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Note: Most bars in the city take in people as mixed groups, so do ensure that you go with a partner of the opposite gender.

Tons of nightclubs, grunge bars, quaint jazz, and shisha cafes fringe the local streets adding something new to Istanbul’s myriad culture. Walk its streets after hours and you’ll see a different side of Istanbul come alive with people who dance and drink with each other irrespective of which side of the city they live in. So go grab a beer and join them!